Craig wanted to go backpacking for his birthday and chose the route of starting at the Saddlebag Lake trailhead heading up through the Twenty Lakes Basin over Secret Pass to Upper McCabe Lake over Don’t Be a Smart Pass to Roosevelt Lake and out the Young Lakes trail. Whew. That wasn’t quite how our hike ended up, but it was still just as intense as that sounds. And honestly, it wasn’t my favorite hike or backpacking trip ever for a variety of reason. The scenery was definitely NOT one of those reason though; the high country of Yosemite, and especially the rugged-terrained backcountry, is the most beautiful place in the world to me.
We started out at Saddlebag Lake and skirted around the west side of the lakes back to Hess Mine and then up to the top of Secret Pass. Here’s Saddlebag and a view looking across Steelhead Lake (in the lakes basin) at the Conness Glacier:
Hiking through the lakes basin, we spotted a bald eagle soaring overhead. And then coming up from the mine toward the pass, we happened upon a blue grouse. I was so wishing for my binoculars! I brought a borrowed pair, but they just weren’t the same, you know? But I had the great pleasure of finding mine waiting for me when we got back home. Vortex really does have the best repair and return policy (fast and perfect!) and though they were hard to live without for two weeks, I’m very glad to have them back before the El Portal migratory birding season. Oh yeah, the eagle and grouse…
From the top of Secret Pass, there was a great view looking down on the Twenty Lakes Basin to the east and Upper McCabe Lake to the west.
Here I am hiking up to the pass with North Peak just to my left and then standing at the pass:
It took us a while to find the secret path down to Upper McCabe (and weren’t always quite sure we were going the right way). And once we were at the lake, we were convinced that the pass was aptly named since we couldn’t see the way back at all.
After that, we decided to forego the Don’t Be a Smart Pass and hike over to Middle McCabe and then Lower McCabe Lakes. We got to the lower lake just in time for sunset and boulder-hopped our way with headlamps over to a sweet little spot to lay out our bags, eat some much-earned dinner, and watch for shooting stars.
The next day was a long adventure hiking up from the lower lake, across steep glacially-polished slopes, and through dense old-growth forests. We bypassed Roosevelt Lake (somewhat unintentionally, actually) but still had some great views overall. I think my favorite part of the day was stopping at Conness Creek to eat lunch, replenish drinking water, and take a refreshing dip in the icy cascades.
We went almost 36 hours without seeing a soul besides deer and juncos. It was a great wilderness experience, but we were certainly glad to get back on trail and to civilization. And, perfect timing, we made it back just in time for Audrey and Parker’s sushi and pizza party!
Now I’m looking forward to a relatively lazy weekend next weekend. Craig will be out backpacking with a couple of friends, so I’ll be left to my own devices on the first half of our last Tuolumne weekend of the season. I’m thinking either a dayhike to the top of Mt. Dana or down Lyell Canyon to Donahue Pass. And then the end-of-season VC dinner. Winter’s a-comin’!